Recent figures have emerged to show that Swindon Council is spending around £1.2m on business rates. Overall, the total value of the rateable properties in Swindon comes to £17.5m.
The majority of unused properties are owned by private operators. However, Swindon Council itself owns a number of properties with substantial rateable values of six-figure sums.
At a time when councils are facing a number of cuts, saving as much money as possible will be a high priority. Business rates are a significant financial burden that should be dealt with as soon as possible.
Business rates and regeneration
The recent Government budget, though based on our recovering economy, will pose serious challenges to councils and individual shops. Indeed in Swindon, many of the council-owned vacant properties are shops that have recently closed down in the town centre.
One property in particular, the Liquor Lounge unit, will incur £70,000 worth of charges if it stays empty for the next 15 months.
Numerous politicians have advised that regeneration is the best way to counter the issues of empty premises. According to Harry Phibbs at Conservative Home, pubs, corner shops and the local high street are crucial for a thriving community, so it’s disappointing that few councils have tried to save them with business rates reoccupation relief.
With the business rates reoccupation relief scheme, businesses can claim a 50% discount for moving into a property that was empty. Utilising a budget of £100,000, Rochdale Council plans to encourage new investment, jobs, business startups and entrepreneurship through the local government scheme.
Enhancing business rates relief
Encouraging new businesses to take on vacant property as their future home is a great way for councils to reduce the costs of business rates. However, while waiting for the empty building to find a new owner, other measures can be taken to reduce the cost of business rates.
Newly vacant property has a 3 month period of relief from business rates but after that time has elapsed, business rates must be paid by the owner of the property. With vacant property specialists, vacant property owners can witness a 90% cost reduction in business rates.
Vacant property security and management firms such as Oaksure can significantly reduce business rates liability. They recruit, organise and manage live-in guards who protect a property by occupying it. If it is done correctly and within the existing regulation this can result in as much as 90% tax savings. There is the additional benefit with this system that a building is used to provide temporary accommodation rather than languishing empty.
Working with councils such as Swindon, vacant property specialists and SIA trained property guardians could save help councils huge amounts of money that could be going to better use within the community.